Speech as musical treasure. Bold, brilliant track charts Québécois language

Paul Wells, The Gazette, March 1, 1990

Language is music to his ears

René Lussier has mined the rich musicality of Québécois French and literally turned speech into music. His bold, brilliant record Le trésor de la langue traces the history of his mother tongue, representing a timely contribution to the language debate and an artistic breakthrough for the young composer.

Le trésor de la langue is important: because it’s the work of a Québecer, because it’s about the state of French in North America and all the thorny politics that that implies, and —most of all— because it’s an audacious musical experiment, brilliantly executed.

Lussier, a self-taught avant-garde guitarist, spent more than two years taping interviews and colleaing archival recordings —Charles de Gaulle’s “Vive le Québec libre” speech René Levesque’s referendum-night concession speech and lesser-known snippets.

Then he wrote, for an 11-piece ensemble, music to match the rhythms of every word. That’s quite a tas~ It means you need an ear musical enough to hear, for instance, that Ç’é ca qu’on va faire translates into a pick-up, triplet eighths, and a quarter note if you put a rock beat behind it. Then you need to repeat the trick over and over for nearly an hour’s worth of speech.

The point of it all is to illustrate the wonderful music of everyday speech —the treasure of language, indeed. And because Lussier chooses Québécois as his text everyday and landmarks of nationalism—plus a reading of the FLQ manifesto—it’s clear enough which language he treasures, and alrnost as clear what political inferences he draws.

This is not easy listening. The dissonance of conversation is made clearer when filtered through Lussier’s mind. But there’s something here to amuse, intrigue, and certainly lo enrage any listener who cares about music, language and culture.

The point is to illustrate the wonderful music of everyday speech — the treasure of language indeed. […] It’s an audacious musical experiment, brilliantly executed.